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    An Unexpected Battle Over Banning Caste Discrimination

    enSeptember 25, 2023

    Podcast Summary

    • California to Ban Caste Discrimination, Comparing it to Racial Prejudice in the USCalifornia becomes the first US state to outlaw caste discrimination, drawing comparisons to racial prejudice and its socio-economic impact.

      California is set to become the first state in the US to outlaw discrimination based on caste, making it a protected characteristic alongside sex, gender, and sexual orientation. The caste system is an ancient social stratification system originating in India, where people are born into rigid hierarchies that govern various aspects of their lives. While caste discrimination was outlawed in countries like India and Nepal in the mid-20th century, it still persists in practice. The caste system shares similarities with racial prejudice in the US, as both can result in significant social and economic disparities that are difficult to escape. The comparison was drawn by journalist Isabel Wilkerson in her best-selling book "Caste." The passing of Senate Bill 403 in California reflects growing recognition of the need to address this issue in the US, but concerns have been raised about potential backlash and implementation challenges.

    • California bill against caste discrimination signals growing concerns over its prevalence in US diasporaThe California bill against caste discrimination reflects increasing concerns over its presence in the US, driven by shifts in immigration patterns and conflicts arising from diversity policies in India.

      The introduction of a bill in California against caste discrimination signifies the belief among lawmakers that this issue extends beyond South Asia and has been imported into the US. This bill was prompted by growing concerns from constituents about the increasing prevalence of caste discrimination in the diaspora. The surge in this issue can be attributed to shifts in immigration patterns, particularly after the 1965 Immigration Act, which brought a large number of skilled workers from India, predominantly from the upper castes. However, with affirmative action policies in India leading to a more diverse group of immigrants, conflicts have arisen in places like California, where a significant number of IT workers from India are employed. The issue gained significant public attention in 2020 when California sued Cisco over caste discrimination allegations, highlighting the need for legislation to address this issue.

    • Caste Discrimination in the US: A Hidden IssueThe Black Lives Matter movement brought attention to systemic discrimination and oppression, allowing South Asian communities to share their experiences with caste discrimination, including wage theft, social exclusion, and denial of medical referrals. Caste discrimination persists even in countries like the US.

      The Black Lives Matter movement in the US, following the death of George Floyd, provided a framework for people from South Asian communities to discuss and understand their experiences with caste discrimination. Terms like systemic discrimination and oppression became more widely understood, allowing people to describe their experiences in a relatable way. During this time, stories emerged of wage theft, social exclusion, and even denial of medical referrals based on caste. One individual, Bheem Narayan Vishwakarma, shared his experience of feeling discriminated against in Nepal and moving to the US to escape caste-based discrimination. Despite finding a great room to rent, he was ultimately denied the lease after the landlord discovered his caste. These incidents demonstrate the persistence of caste discrimination, even in countries like the US where it may not be as openly discussed or recognized. The conversation around race and discrimination sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement has provided a valuable platform for addressing other forms of discrimination, including caste.

    • Discrimination follows Bheem to the USDespite leaving Nepal, Bheem faced caste-based discrimination in the US, highlighting the global impact of caste system. Efforts to address this issue met resistance, but the conversation continues to shed light on the need for protections against caste discrimination.

      Despite leaving Nepal and moving to the United States, discrimination based on caste continued to impact Bheem's life. His experience of being denied a room rental due to his last name, which is associated with a lower caste in Nepal, left him feeling humiliated and shattered. This incident was a reminder of the discrimination he had experienced in his past, and he felt that he had not fully escaped it. As more stories of caste-based discrimination emerged, there was a growing awareness of the issue in the US. In response, there were calls for more protections against caste discrimination, leading to the introduction of bills in universities, companies, and cities. However, these efforts met with resistance, particularly from within the South Asian diaspora in the US. Opponents argued that there was no evidence of caste discrimination in American history and that the proposed laws were unnecessary. Despite this opposition, the conversation around caste discrimination continues to evolve, shedding light on the complex and often hidden ways that discrimination can follow individuals, even as they seek new opportunities in new places.

    • Debate over California's proposed law banning caste discriminationOpponents argue the law could unfairly target Hindus, create unwanted identity, and make life harder for those involved in hiring decisions.

      The proposed law banning caste discrimination in California has sparked intense debate, with some arguing that it's unnecessary and could even lead to more discrimination against a specific group of people, particularly Hindus. Opponents fear that the law, which is new to the American context, could impose an unwanted identity and make them more vulnerable to accusations of discrimination. They argue that caste is not a relevant issue for many Indian Americans who came to the US to leave behind such ancient systems. Additionally, some worry that the law could target Hindus unfairly due to the association of caste with Hinduism. A professor who is Hindu and teaches at a California university expressed concern that he could face accusations of discrimination if he participates in decisions related to tenure, making his job more difficult. Overall, the debate highlights the complexity of addressing caste discrimination in a country where it's not a widely understood issue.

    • California's new law sparks debates over caste-based discriminationOpponents worry about potential lawsuits, critics question necessity, but supporters argue for protections against caste-based discrimination

      The passage of a new law in California aimed at preventing caste-based discrimination has sparked heated debates and concerns from opponents. They argue that this new law could introduce a new level of legal peril and fear, making them worried about potential lawsuits, even if they don't engage in caste discrimination. Some critics also question the necessity of the law, suggesting that it could be misused or that caste discrimination is not a widespread issue in the US. However, supporters of the bill argue that these concerns are outweighed by the experiences of those who have faced caste-based discrimination and the need to provide them with protections. Ultimately, the implementation and enforcement of the law once it becomes law will be a challenge, as American jurors may not have much experience or knowledge about the caste system. Despite these challenges, supporters hope that the law will create a safe space for those who have experienced caste-based discrimination to seek justice.

    • Writers' strike ends, government shutdown loomsThe entertainment industry and U.S. government face disruptions: writers secured better streaming royalties and AI protections, while lawmakers push for budget balance risking a government shutdown.

      Significant disruptions are ongoing in both the entertainment industry and the U.S. government. In the entertainment sector, after a 146-day writers' strike, a tentative deal was reached, reportedly delivering many of the writers' demands, such as higher royalty payments for streaming content and protections against AI encroachment. Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., the government is at risk of shutting down due to Republican lawmakers' demands for deep spending cuts. These lawmakers, despite being labeled as "far right," argue for budget balance, but their stance has led to a potential government shutdown. Both situations highlight the challenges of balancing competing interests and the potential consequences of inaction or inflexibility.

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